Cubans Save Vacation for Havana Film
By Vanessa Arrington, Associated
Press Writer, December 9, 2005.
HAVANA - Long lines this time of year usually
consist of Christmas shoppers, but in communist
Cuba the lines are made up of an entirely
different group of zealots: movie buffs.
Those crazy about cinema wait all year
for Havana's international film festival,
which brings movies from around Latin America
and the world to some 20 screens in the
capital in December.
The festival serves as a window to the
rest of the globe for those living on an
island where few get the opportunity to
travel and television programming is run
by the state.
"This is so important, for us to see
all that is being said around the world,"
Mirtha Ibanez, a retired public health worker,
said of the festival. "This is how
we see the truth, and different cultures."
Many Cubans even save up vacation days
to watch a half-dozen films per day at the
festival, which opened Tuesday and runs
through Dec. 16.
"I'm an economist, but I love the
movies and took off time to be here,"
said Jose Luis Martinez, standing outside
the Payret Theater across the street from
Havana's historic Capitol Building. "I'm
going to see as many movies as I can, probably
The theater seats aren't that comfortable,
and there's no extra butter for the hardly
fresh popcorn sold outside. But with tickets
selling for just two Cuban pesos per film
- about 10 U.S. cents - Cubans go to the
movies in droves.
More than 80 feature-length films, including
documentaries and animated movies, will
compete in the International Festival of
New Latin American Cinema. Most were produced
in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Cuba, but
European flicks and independent films from
the United States also are shown.
The festival films are not censored, and
tackle myriad issues, from war to infidelity
"Un Ano Sin Amor," or "A
Year Without Love," deals with a homosexual
man living with AIDS and his search for
love before he dies. Stark sexual scenes,
including sadomasochism, surprised but didn't
seem to repel moviegoers in the packed theater.
"It's something that's not in my world,
but it's just another way to live,"
Lourdes Gonzalez, currently unemployed,
said of the movie's theme. "It was
quite forceful but still well done."
Other film protagonists include an Arab
and a Jew in the Chilean film "La Ultima
Luna," or "The Last Moon";
a street kid whose life is portrayed in
one long night in Argentina's "Ronda
Nocturna," or "Night Patrol";
and a 40-year-old black woman hired to take
care of an aging widow with racist tendencies
in Brazil's "El Ajedrez de los Colores,"
or "Chess of Colors."
"Normally the films touch upon really
powerful, really deep topics," said
musician Alain Ramirez, who had already
seen five in just one day.
The documentaries also are far from timid,
addressing such subjects as the war in Iraq,
the travails of Latin maids in the United
States and the murders and disappearances
of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Cubans are as passionate in the theater
as out, often shouting reactions to certain
scenes or chattering about a character during
"This is a method of diversion for
all Cubans," said Ramirez, the musician.
"We eagerly anticipate it all year.
Once it's here, we meet up with our friends,
debate the movies afterward. We're fanatics."
East Timor PM visits Cuba
AFP, Sunday December 11,
The Prime Minister of East Timor, Mari
Bim Amude Alkatiri, has begun an official
visit to Cuba to "reinforce" bilateral
relations, the Cuban government newspaper
Mr Alkatiri was invited to Cuba by President
Fidel Castro to "help reinforce links
of cooperation and solidarity" between
the two island countries, the newspaper
A brigade of Cuban doctors is currently
working in East Timor, while some 30 Timorese
youths are studying in Cuba, according to
Cuba and East Timor established diplomatic
relations in 2002, the year that the former
Portuguese-controlled territory won its
independence from Indonesia.
Menendez Inspires Pride in Cuban-Americans
By Wayne Parry, Associated
Press Writer, December 8, 2005.
UNION CITY, N.J. - The rise of Rep. Robert
Menendez (news, bio, voting record) mirrors
the progress of the entire Hispanic community
in the United States, residents of the congressman's
The 51-year-old son of Cuban immigrants,
chosen by Gov.-elect Jon Corzine to fill
the final year of Corzine's Senate term,
would be the first minority member to represent
New Jersey in the Senate, and would be the
body's third sitting Hispanic senator.
Corzine will announce the selection as
early as Thursday, Democratic congressional
aides told The Associated Press. They spoke
on condition of anonymity Wednesday because
the official announcement had not yet been
"Latinos are getting out there and
meaning something, and that means a lot,"
said Angel Perez, who owns a medical supply
store on Bergenline Avenue, the heart of
Union City's Cuban-American community, which
also counts Dominicans, Colombians, Puerto
Ricans, Mexicans and other Hispanics among
Perez, who said he has known the congressman
since childhood, said he and many other
Union City voters cast ballots for Corzine
specifically because they hoped he would
choose Menendez as his successor.
Born in New York City, Menendez grew up
in Union City, serving on the Board of Education
in 1974-78 and as mayor in 1986-92. He was
in the state Assembly in 1987-91 and the
state Senate in 1991-92, when he was elected
Though he currently lives in nearby Hoboken,
he's well known along Bergenline Avenue,
where store signs are as likely to be in
Spanish as English, bakeries boast of their
Mexican and Guatemalan bread, and shops
vie to offer prepaid phone cards with cheap
rates to Central and South America.
Photo lab worker Pablo Madrigal said that
while Menendez's ancestry is a point of
local pride, it will only go so far in Washington.
"If he's going to do a good job, it
doesn't matter if he's Hispanic or not,"
American Anti-War Activists March in
By Anita Snow, Associated
Press Writer, Dec 7, 2005.
HAVANA - American anti-war activists marched
Wednesday from the eastern Cuban city of
Santiago toward the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo
Bay to protest treatment of terror suspects
The 25 members of the Witness Against Torture
group had hoped to begin their daylong march
a day earlier, but spent Tuesday negotiating
with Cuban communist officials about how
close they could get to the American military
installation, the protesters said by telephone.
Cuba and the United States have had no
diplomatic relations for more than four
decades, and the American base is surrounded
by a miles-wide Cuban military zone peppered
It seemed unlikely that the marchers would
be allowed to cross the military zone to
reach the U.S. base's gate and demand that
American sentries let them visit the prisoners,
as they initially had planned.
"We're really saddened and horrified
by what's going on in Guantanamo and the
other prisons" where the U.S. military
holds terror suspects, said marcher Susan
Crane of Baltimore. "Our hope is to
get as close as we can (to the base)."
"We want the prisoners to know we
care about them," she added.
Most of the marchers arrived Monday in
Santiago, about 50 miles southwest of Guantanamo,
from the Dominican Republic. Among them
was Frida Berrigan, daughter of the late
Phil Berrigan, a former Roman Catholic priest
whose fight against the Vietnam War and
nuclear weapons helped ignite a generation
of anti-war dissent.
The United States holds about 500 terror
suspects at the remote base in Guantanamo.
The U.S. government says they are enemy
combatants, not prisoners of war, and are
not entitled to the same rights afforded
under the Geneva Conventions.